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Diablo IV Beta Impressions – Excited for More

During both the Early Access and Open Beta weekends for Diablo IV held in March, players were able to roll up to 10 characters and try out builds the five classes available in the game – Barbarian, Sorcerer, Necromancer, Rogue and Druid. Selecting Barbarian to start with, I was impressed with the character creation options on offer. Being a beta, I didn’t spend too much time on this knowing my characters will be wiped, but I look forward to making characters at launch.

An intro cinematic played which set the dark mood and undertones for the gameplay ahead. I am enjoying the much darker story compared to Diablo 3, though again being beta, I didn’t want to spoil much of it so didn’t plan to progress the main story too far. However, one gripe I had with the intro cinematic was that it’s the same for every class. I felt it would have been much more immersive if each class had its own version of the intro cinematic, even if it all ended the same. It would give more weight to choosing your class.

Once I landed in Fractured Peaks, I was impressed with the level of detail of the graphics and the game sounds. It really felt immersive as if you were trudging through the snow yourself. The frame rate had occasional drops, but this was to be expected for a beta test. I started my usual grid-pattern of exploration, going backwards along the cliffs stomping over dead animal corpses, fighting wargs and bashing crates and carts for gold and basic items.

Interestingly, the barbarian starts with multiple weapon sets equipped right from the start, however I wasn’t sure how to switch between them. As I discovered more weapon loot drops, equipping a better one-handed sword switched me from the two-handed weapon I had previously. It did give me a chance to try the different weapon combat styles, I just had no idea how to switch between them. I defeated the first boss which was a decent challenge for my barbarian at that point. I never felt like I was going to die, but I did pop a health pot or two.

Meeting Lilith for the first time was awesome and her entrance into the church scene was just perfect. Entering the town of Kyovashad was a good chance to finally sell my loot but was also cool to see other players running around. I was on eternal 1 difficulty and switched to eternal 2 and most of the players disappeared, so you could tell who was on which difficulty level. This is also important for when you want to group up with your mates in that you need to be on the same difficulty level.

My pack had been full for a while and so I was throwing out random white items to make room for any blues or yellows I found that were upgrades. I was able to buy any items that weren’t upgraded enough as well as unlock the first teleporter. I started to pick up a few side quests as well. At this point I was level 6 and didn’t want to progress the story any further, so I tried the other classes.

Sorcerer was next and straight away it felt more powerful than the Barbarian, especially as hitting each mob with the default attack slowed them down. I would fire one shot at each mob, then AOE the group down before they got close. One thing I did notice was that the sorcerer also had an evade action by pressing the spacebar. Turns out all classes have this ability which is great, and of course is limited use so can’t be abused. As I had done the grid search on the barbarian already and this being a beta, I rushed through the first six levels and parked at Kyovashad as well.

I did this for all classes across the two beta weekends, and my favourite class to play was the Necromancer. To have the ability to summon four minions right from the start was very cool, and the fact that they ran off to kill mobs before I even saw them felt like it was too powerful too soon. I would have preferred to have one minion initially and maybe you get an additional minion each level to level 4, as that would have made the starting area that much more challenging. I was already playing on Eternal II difficulty so hoped for a more challenging time, though when you run out of corpses to raise, you shatter pretty quick.

The skill tree is a great step up from the Diablo 3 skill system, but no way near as complicated as Path of Exile. For the few skills that I chose to unlock on each class, most felt like somewhat of a power increase. Again the necro skill upgrades felt the most powerful. With my four minions and a long range AOE attack, not much got through to melee range. I didn’t progress far enough to unlock much of the skill trees, but the skill upgrades felt like there was a slow but steady progression of power for each class. The freedom to reset all skill and test our new builds was great, though no doubt there is going to be a cost to do this at high levels. What that will be I am not sure, I just hope it’s not too prohibitive to the casual player.

Juzzza levelled up the most out of all of us at Roundtable Co-Op, getting a sorcerer to level 20. He went fire spec but rather than spend points across four skills, he stuck with just two fire spells and made them as powerful as he could within the skill tree. This seemed to work with him though I heard anecdotally that the hydras were super powerful, sort of like the necro minions running off to smash mobs without you doing too much. Exploring beyond Kyovashad, we eventually came across world and legion events.

World events are small experiences that arise at random within the zone indicated by a purple glow. Shiny things get me at the best of times but to have these public events where other players can jump in to help was cool to see. These events may require you to do things such as escorting a lost soul to its loved one or satiate the hunger of bloodthirsty obelisks. World events can usually be completed within a couple of minutes and provide some decent rewards. Legion Events are longer experiences that are meant to challenge you and your party.

You will need to take out hordes of demons and these events will usually be marked on your map but are sometimes revealed after conquering a Stronghold. Strongholds are locations the Burning Hell’s minions have claimed for themselves, casting a shadow of darkness upon them for you to lift. Clearing out Strongholds will bring about permanent change to these locations, repopulating them with non-demonic life and rewarding you with loot. Clearing a Stronghold may also reveal new dungeons to delve into and other hidden experiences, as well as a new teleport location.

Looking at the world map, I was impressed to see the scale of the connected zones we could explore. Even cooler is the fact we can use a mount in-game, though I didn’t get a chance to try this myself. The world certainly feels alive with animals and critters darting back into the bushes, and monsters aplenty. There is one aspect of the game though that I only briefly experienced myself but heard lots about and that is level scaling. Essentially as you level up your character, the monsters around you level up with you. This isn’t a new concept, it’s used in many MMORPGs, however there’s pluses and minuses to this.

One plus is that you can play with your mates and the mobs scale with you, regardless of the level difference between you and your mates. Another is that you can go anywhere, and you will be fighting mobs that are your level. However, this is also a negative in that you never feel scared to enter a new zone that may have monsters 5+ levels higher than you or more, where exploring could be instant death. One issue with level scaling over time though is that if you don’t keep your gear constantly improving and keeping up with your level, the monsters will start to be stronger than you. Time will tell how this level scaling system sits with other players and at the game’s full release.

From everything we experienced in the two beta weekends overall, we are excited for more Diablo IV. From the great graphics and environments, to grouping up with mates for world and legion quests, and later dungeon runs. It’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun grinding our favourite classes up, experiencing the epic storylines through the main and side quests. Crafting is another thing I didn’t touch on but features in the game, so I am looking forward to diving more into that. One thing I know for sure though it that it’s going to be a long wait for June 6.

These beta impressions were made possible by beta keys provided by Blizzard ANZ. Diablo IV is set for release in June 6, 2023 and to read more about the game, head over to the official website.


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